For a reading from this deck click here. This wonderful deck was created some time in the 1400s and prior to 1501 and is the Trumps portion of several sets of sheets. That’s likely around the time that Christopher Columbus was petitioning Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile to fund a one year voyage to the Orient and some 450+ years prior to the publication of the Waite-Colman-Smith deck.
The Rosenwald Tarot is a majors only deck and one of two early tarot projects by Sullivan Hismans of www.tarotsheetrevival.com. The other is the Budapest Tarot which I will review separately.
Sullivan Hismans is a scholar and an accomplished artist and graphic designer. This deck is a reconstruction from three sets of uncut sheets. These three sheets are in the “Rosenwald Collection” residing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The first sheet was an almost complete set of the trumps except for the Fool as well as three Queens. The second and third sheets were 48 cards – a set of minors without the Queens and tens. Apparently, this structure was not unknown at the time and resembles the Assini deck stylistically which led Sullivan in the direction of the another set of sheets.
This led to a second version of the trumps sheet obtained from the au Deutches Spielkartenmuseum. This, in turn, was related to another deck sheet that had been attached to a book page. Reusing used tarot sheets as book bindings was a common practice during this period. This book edition didn’t carry a date, but fortunately, another edition of this same book located at the Biblioteca Comunale, August, Perusia is dated 1501-1502. This was helpful in establishing the publication date of the deck as being prior to 1501.
So, this is one of the older tarot decks in existence. It appears to be a deck printed for the masses rather than the nobility a la the Visconti-Sforza that was created in the mid-1400s. The cards are approximately 2’ x 3.5’ and presented in an authentic manner in a heavy paper envelope. The figures are stenciled in black on a variegated beige background. The backs are a picture of the backs from the sheet.
Order and numbering are unique. The cards are unnamed and the order is from the sheets:
Strength VIII (yes again)
Hanged Man Unnumbered
I am in awe of the age of these cards and the research and artistic work that Sullivan has done. The card figures are simple, sometimes humorous, sometimes serious. The Devil reminds me more of the Green Man rather than a mediaeval demonic figure. Some of the figures are so different: The Hermit on crutches, Death trampling full figures, the Magician looking like a combination of the Fool and the Magician. Some figures appear in unique proportions and some adhere to common neoclassical and Christian themes. All are instantly recognizable. It’s a great peek into a past when the typical set of numbering and images had not become more formalized.
I’ll give a reading with the deck in my next post!
 These statements are a synopsis from http://www.tarotsheetrevival.com/en/about-the-rosenwald-tarot-uncut-sheets/
Rosenwald Tarot images by Sullivan Hismans are used with permission and are available here.